BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - More than a thousand weapons were found in South Carolina schools last year.
Numbers we requested from the state Department of Education show 1,066 guns, knives and other weapons were reported in statewide school districts. That total is less than the previous three years.
It also only reflects the weapons actually found and reported, and reporting can vary across districts.
Berkeley County Schools reported the highest number of weapons found: 105 total. Those included 8 handguns, 43 knives, 2 other firearms, 52 other weapons.
SCDE explained last year that “other weapons” include razor blades, ice picks, Chinese stars, chains, brass knuckles, billy clubs, stun guns, mace, tear gas, hatchets, tasers and pepper spray.
“It’s definitely eyebrow raising and people may think we have a weapons problem," BCSD Safety and Security Director Tim Knight said."But we look at it as a positive thing. Our training is working. Our students are coming forward to report different things. Even if it’s a toy, it’s going to be classified as a weapon.”
Knight said BCSD is contacted by other entities such as private schools and out-of-state schools for advice on school security.
The high numbers, he believes, also represent measures they’ve taken through apps and the district website to allow anyone to report suspicious behavior or concerns about a potential weapon.
“We follow up on every tip,” he said, adding that high confiscation numbers do not necessarily correlate with high instances of violence in any community.
Charleston County Schools was at the top of the list in 2015, 2016 and 2017 for most weapons reported.
This year, the number reported dropped to 76, compared to 145 in 2017.
“We believe proactive measures such as Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports, the Random Search Program, and communication from administrators to the communities they serve can create a culture and climate where students will not feel the need or desire to bring weapons of any kind to school,” Spokesperson Andy Pruitt said in a statement,
He said CCSD is actively working to continue to educate students about what is and is not allowed at school.
DD4 reported zero weapons found. That district’s spokesperson today said that number is accurate.
Berkeley County mother Stephanie Hamilton-Brown says she and her daughter pray every morning about staying safe at school.
“It’s disturbing… there’s so many things our kids are dealing with now in schools," Hamilton-Brown said."You just never know, with so many things happening. If there’s a child that’s disgruntled or doesn’t have the social skills to communicate what’s going on, that they would take that rage out on the mass of kids.”
SCDE said on the state level, it has instituted a requirement beginning with the 2019-20 school year for every school to have a threat assessment team in place.
“Effective threat assessment increases focus on violence prevention and resolution, increases access to counseling services and supports, and decreases long-term suspensions and alternative placements," said SCDE spokesperson Ryan Brown. "In schools where threat assessment teams and protocols exist, educators and other staff are more likely to work collaboratively to share information about students who may pose danger to themselves or others.”
“The goal of behavioral threat assessment and management is to intervene and help the student of concern onto a more positive pathway," Brown added."Thus, the timely and appropriate sharing of information could enhance the safety of all students, including the student at risk. Our agency has developed a threat assessment guide and trainings that have already conducted with hundreds of educators across the state.”
In addition to threat assessment teams, an additional $2.2 million was allocated by the General Assembly this year to provide mental health counselors in schools, Brown said.
$10 million was allotted to hire additional school resource officers in areas that cannot afford them on their own.
“This is part of shared goal among SLED, SCDE, and SCDMH to have a mental health counselors and trained law enforcement officer in every school in the state,” Brown said.